Apr. 16th, 2008

Welcome to ad:tech. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Have you ever been to a fair, only there’s no rides? And for some reason it’s inside of a giant basement and complete strangers ask you awkward questions every time you approach a booth – which turns out to have neither games nor prizes?

Welcome to the world of conventions, little Junior Copywriter. Behold the magical wonders that await around every partition, down every aisle. Enter to win more iPhones than you could ever possibly use – with a mere drop of a business card!

I was lured into this strange, subterranean land today while walking by the cubical of a fellow Mortaron. We shall call him "Sam Pipersky". Sam had an ad:tech badge sitting on his desk. Questions ensued. Fifteen minutes later, I found myself several blocks away at San Francisco’s infamous Moscone Center, trying to look inconspicuous amongst a sea of khakied promoters and men wearing blazers with lanyards instead of ties.

"What do I need a tie for? I’ve got a lanyard!" they must think.

I went from booth to booth, trying to absorb as much as possible before anyone back at Mortar noticed I was gone.

There were brochures galore, eye-catching piles of candy, bowls full of business cards, video displays for companies that had nothing to do with video, and hordes of colorful gizmos, whatnots, mousepads, and logo pens.

The booth staff were as diverse as the number of ways to put "e" before an otherwise low-tech company name. Some were laid back. Some were really excited. Some looked lonely. Most looked like they were eagerly awaiting the moment when they could put everything away and grab a nice cocktail. Some wanted to tell me about their company, but most wanted to hear about mine.

One, after glancing at my badge, asked, "So… Sam, what do you do at… Mortar?"

Not remembering that a very different title was on my badge, I replied, "Oh, I’m a writer."

"Oh. Hm, Pipersky, where is that from?"

Think fast, Thea! "Uuuuh, I think it’s German."

"Really. Interesting name, Pipersky."

I made a break for it, diving into the crowd – but first grabbing a logo-embellished sugar cookie.
I tried to blend in, taking a brochure here, a flyer there, a free mousepad, a foam million-dollar bill – until I made my way back near the exit.

On the way out, a little old man handed me a cone of fluffy blue cotton candy.
"For me?" I asked. He gestured to his mouth to explain that it was, indeed, edible.

It tasted like raspberries.

I left Moscone center and came back into the sunlight, disoriented – and slightly sweaty. As I walked back down the familiar blocks of my home city, by bearings slowly returned.

Had it all been a dream?

As I write this post, I glance over at the bulletin board on my cubical wall. There, between a zebra postcard and a humorously edited Superman comic frame, is a foam million-dollar bill, haphazardly tacked to the board by the coworker I threw it at.

Maybe ad:tech is real after all.

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